Finally, we were here! In case you are wondering – yes, it was just as beautiful and amazing as it looks in the magazines. We planned the longest stop during our recent New Zealand / South Pacific trip right here on Aitutaki, one of the stops on the notorious Coral route. Although it looks like a tiny dot in the middle of a big ocean on Google maps, it has much more to offer besides perfect sandy beaches and colourful corals on its 15 uninhabited islets in the turquoise Aitutaki lagoon. How does this little paradise in the Cook islands look like? Keep on reading 😉
Visited: Aitutaki lagoon cruise, Honeymoon island, One foot island, Ootu beach, Arutanga town, Maunga Pu summit
How: car, plane
Stayed in: private villa
WE VISITED AITUTAKI WHEN LU WAS 5 YEARS OLD. THERE IS A SECTION ABOUT AITUTAKI WITH KIDS AT THE END OF THIS POST.
USEFUL INFORMATION FOR TRAVELLING TO AITUTAKI, COOK ISLANDS
HOW TO GET TO AITUTAKI ATOL
The journey to Aitutaki atol is LONG AND EXPENSIVE if you are flying in from Europe. In any case you will have to fly to RAROTONGA first and take a 50-minute long domestic flight from there (you can only book those directly at Air Rarotonga´s internet page or in their offices). The quickest way is flying via LOS ANGELES, there is 1 flight a week to Rarotonga from LA. Rarotonga also has direct connections with AUCKLAND, SYDNEY and 2 times a week to TAHITI. We flew Frankfurt – Singapore – Auckland – Rarotonga – Aitutaki.
In the moment we flew over the amazing AITUTAKI LAGOON and saw its colours, we forgot all about the long way behind us and could not help but smile until we landed. We were kindly picked up at the airport and gotten beautiful FLOWERS – just like in the movies ha ha. What a great start of this relaxed holiday in paradise.
HOW TO GET AROUND AITUTAKI
One of the many useful advice we got from our friends before leaving home was to get a car while on Aitutaki.
We first thought that cannot be necessary as the island looks so small on the map – but it turned out it was really the best thing to do! It gives you the FREEDOM TO EXPLORE and stop wherever you want, go to a shop when you need something and so on.
To play it by the rules you need to get your INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LICENCE CONVERTED into a local one AT THE POLICE STATION. I suggest you book a car online, because there are not that many rental car offices, especially if you are visiting over the holidays or in the peak season. Driving is easy, even if it´s your first time DRIVING ON THE LEFT SIDE, as there is almost no traffic. Alternatively you can rent motorbikes or bicycles.
ACCOMMODATION ON AITUTAKI
Despite having a reputation of being one of those EXCLUSIVE AND MORE EXPENSIVE DESTINATIONS, where normal people only go to for their honeymoon (if they are lucky enough), there are some cheaper accommodation possibilities. You can get a basic double room for 70-80 € a night´(don´t expect a top location though), the best hotels will charge you 300-400€ a night, or even more. THE WONDERFUL VILLAS WE STAYED AT DESERVE THEIR OWN POST, so stay tuned and don´t miss it (coming up soon).
AITUTAKI / COO ISLANDS CUISINE
Our winner? “Ika mata” – lime marinated raw tuna in coconut cream, served with breadfruit chips and a fresh salad – just delicious!
Sometimes WE COOKED ON OUR OWN, sometimes we just grabbed a tasty BURGER & fries or FISH AND CHIPS (btw. You don´t just get any fish in those, you get the best tasting tuna mmm) and sometimes we tried out some new dishes in restaurants. TAP WATER is drinkable, but we cooked it first just in case. Shops and gas stations sell lots of SNACKS, you can also get wonderful tropical FRUITS!
COSTS OF AITUTAKI HOLIDAYS
Ugh, I wish I could surprise you with a “it´s not expensive at all” sentence, but sorry, I can´t.
It really is expensive compared to the prices at home, which is no wonder considering the fact that almost all products have to be imported and brought by a ship. 12$ for 100g coffee in a shop, 6$ for a small jar of marmalade, lunch in a restaurant was 20-30$ per person, burgers and fries were cheaper. But, we expected this so we were prepared ;). We did not carelessly splurge on everything, but we were also not being cheap :).
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN AITUTAKI, COOK ISLANDS
Right. So what were we doing all the time? First of all I have to say we were REALLY LUCKY TO STAY HERE FOR SO MANY DAYS – usually people stay just a couple of days or even just do a DAY TRIP FROM RAROTONGA.
A visit longer than a week will give you so much freedom and you don´t have to hurry anything.
That´s exactly what we did. If we did not feel like moving around too much, we just stayed at “our beach” in front of the villa (on the photo above). If we felt like kayaking we did it! If we were hungry we got a bite to eat and if we were not sleepy we stayed awake until midnight. Yes, also Lu. Who cares, it´s holidays. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ OUR POST ABOUT HOW MOST OF OUR DAYS ON AITUTAKI LOOKED LIKE, you can do so here.
Besides lounging and kayaking at our beach, we of course did the famous AITUTAKI LAGOON CRUISE, we circled the island with a car, randomly stopping stopping at some beaches (OOTU BEACH was our favourite), we watched the traditional SINGING / DANCING CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS in the main town, we HIKED UP THE HIGHEST HILL and tried to eat as much local delicacies we could. We are not kitesurfers, but KITESURFING is supposed to be amazing in the lagoon! Stand up paddeling is also possible, so is DIVING, FISHING, some local agencies also organize BOAT TRIPS OUTSIDE THE LAGOON.
Most important of all, we RELAXED OUR MINDS by doing absolutely nothing in between. This might have been the most relaxing holiday since we are parents ha ha. So here it goes – photos and descriptions of our FAVOURITE PLACES AND THINGS TO DO on Aitutaki.
AITUTAKI LAGOON CRUISE | a full day boat trip around one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world
This is TOP ATTRACTION on Aitutaki and there are many people flying in just for a day from Rarotonga to do this cruise and fly back in the evening. We decided to do the tour with AITUTAKI ADVENTURES and were picked up by Mr. PUNA at around 10 am. The whole trip lasted around 6 hours and we loved it because the YELLOW BOAT (which is btw. not yellow anymore as the colour is washed out, but who cares) seemed to be a smaller one. We prefer smaller groups over the big boats as the whole experience is more private.
We had beautiful SUNSHINE that day, which was great because the underwater world is at its best then. First we stopped at HONEYMOON ISLAND for some snorkelling and had enough time to walk around the island also. We continued to the ONE FOOT ISLAND, where we had a yummy BBQ LUNCH on the beach, drove to another amazing SNORKELLING SPOT and returned home. It was a wonderful day and we can only recommend taking this tour. Below you can see how it looked like ;).
HONEYMOON ISLAND | picture perfect miniature island in the lagoon
Even though we have been to some of the world´s best beaches before and have watched photos and videos of Aitutaki before we left, we were still BLOWN AWAY BY THIS SCENERY. I think the pictures speak for themselves ;).
SNORKELLING IN THE LAGOON | discovering the rich Aitutaki underwater world
You can bring along your own SNORKELLING GEAR or take what´s on the boat. If you don´t feel like snorkelling at all, you can just stay at an island in the mean time, there is always an option to do so. WE LOVED IT! Apart for the fact that my GOPRO WAS ON A SILENT STRIKE and I was taking millions pictures while the device was switched off for no particular reason (don´t you just hate technology sometimes!?), the snorkelling was simply amazing. Sadly, we don´t have many photos to show the best of it, but I´m sure you can imagine ;).
Lu did not snorkel, but he did have some fun in the shallow waters at TRYING TO CATCH THE FISH – UNSUCCESSFULLY ;). But he still enjoyed it!
Wiiii a TURTLE! So far we were never so lucky to actually see turtles swimming in the sea so close to us, so this was a special encounter.
The only thing you have to be careful about (besides remembering to put on lots of sun lotion) is not to touch, step on or damage any corals!
Some of them might leave you with nasty scars, so please avoid contact. Also, if walking around certain parts of beaches with rocks and stones, there is a slight chance you are unlucky enough to step on the poisonous STONE FISH – better to wear REEF SHOES at those places!
TAPUAETAI – ONE FOOT ISLAND | the smallest post office in the world and another paradise island
You can get a footprint shaped stamp in your passport here – at the world´s smallest post office.
Time to move over to one of the most famous islands in the lagoon. THE BEACH WAS ONCE AGAIN AMAZING, we had lunch under the palm trees with the BEST VIEW IN THE WORLD. Hard to beat!
OUR BBQ LUNCH – grilled tuna steaks, rice, vegetables, fresh marinated papaya, grilled breadfruit, cassava and onions. Mmmm, yummy!
After lunch we went to another SNORKELLING SPOT and returned to the small port on the main island afterwards. This was such a perfect day and we are still so grateful for this perfect weather we had and beautiful people to share this unique experience with! If we ever come back to Aitutaki, I´m definitely doing this tour again ;).
ARUTANGA TOWN | the largest and main town on Aitutaki
The main town on the island is pretty small – it has a POST OFFICE, A TOURIST INFO POINT, SHOPS , PORT, CHURCHES and a MARKET. Since we were here on a CHRISTMAS DAY we could not get pass the every year CELEBRATONS – the singing and dancing was fun to watch and obviously contributed to the overall good mood atmosphere.
Aitutaki was the FIRST ISLAND in Cook islands to ACCEPT CHRISTIANITY and this CICC CHURCH is the oldest in the country. I must say I was really surprised by the high number of churches around the island!
OOTU BEACH | the most beautiful beach on the main Aitutaki island
There is a beach and then there is THE beach. So this is THE beach.
What we loved about Aitutaki is, we were all the time alone on the beach. I don´t even know how this is possible, but even during the Christmas holiday season there were no crowds. Beautiful.
We started to observe the little things like CRABS, PALM LEAVES moving with the wind and recognizing all the different shapes of SHELLS and CORALS. We soaked it all in and if I close my eyes right now I can go back in a second! What a beautiful place…
We visited Ootu four times during our stay…
…and every time we came back we gasped once we parked the car and threw our towels under a palm tree on an empty beach. The BLUE SEA COLOURS were just surreal and I felt like I was swimming in Iceland´s Blue lagoon! Okay okay it was a “couple” degrees warmer here ha ha.
There is a bar / restaurant directly on the beach serving excellent COCKTAILS, so we thought, why not?! Carpe diem at its best 😉
Good night. Someone please come and get me in 3 months.
MAUNGA PU SUMMIT | an easy hike up the highest hill on the island
Okay so we did not just lazy around, we also stretched our legs a little bit and walked up the island´s highest peak!
At only 124 m (yes you read it right), this is the highest peak. It takes you about 20 MINUTES TO THE TOP and another 20-30 to WALK TO THE OTHER SIDE. The views are stunning, especially on a day when the weather is nice as you can really see all the small islands and the wonderful lagoon colours.
An easy walk which is perfect for kids also – we always bring Lu´s ball with, which is a true lifesaver sometimes ;).
The view from the highest peak towards Ootu beach…
.. and the view from Ootu beach to the highest peak!
Going back down towards the main road – what a great way to spend one afternoon! Make sure you do this easy walk up and enjoy the amazing views – and again, we were completely alone up here! Amazing 😉
We loved our time on Aitutaki and we hope to be back some day again – it was the most relaxed holiday we had “since ages” ;). Thanks to everyone who helped make this wonderful adventure true, you know who you are :*
TRAVELLING TO AITUTAKI WITH KIDS
What can i say, it is (almost) like PARADISE. Also for CHILDREN. The best thing is that they can RUN AROUND FREELY since there is almost ZERO TRAFFIC. Some of the BEACHES are just out of this world and you can easily find a spot just for yourselves. The UNDERWATER WORLD in the lagoon is easy to explore even for children and I am sure they will LOVE ALL THE LITTLE FISH and CORALS. You can do KAYAK and even take a SHORT HIKE. FOOD options might be limited so if you need some special SNACKS or food, bring it with you on a plane from RAROTONGA, Same goes for DIAPERS.
There are some things to WATCH OUT for though. First the STRONG SUN. Because you will probably spend the most of your day near the water it is even more important to put on enough SUNSCREEN. The best is to buy some good quality UV SWIMWEAR and wear HATS. There were lots of MOSQUITO so a REPELLENT is a good idea. Because of the CORALS it might be a good idea to WEAR REEF SHOES. MEDICAL CARE is limited so bring some medicine with you if you think you will need it. Other than that, you will be fine. We loved the RELAXED ATMOSPHERE and being cut of of internet for a while. Perfect getaway for the FAMILY including your KIDS.
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